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The Vine Basket

Cover of The Vine Basket

The Vine Basket

Things aren't looking good for fourteen-year-old Mehrigul. She yearns to be in school, but she's needed on the family farm. The longer she's out of school, the more likely it is that she'll be sent off to a Chinese factory . . . perhaps never to return. Her only hope is an American woman who buys one of her decorative vine baskets for a staggering sum and says she will return in three weeks for more. Mehrigul must brave terrible storms, torn-up hands from working the fields, and her father's scorn to get the baskets done. The stakes are high, and time is passing.

A powerful intergenerational story of a strong, creative young artist in a cruelly oppressive society.

Things aren't looking good for fourteen-year-old Mehrigul. She yearns to be in school, but she's needed on the family farm. The longer she's out of school, the more likely it is that she'll be sent off to a Chinese factory . . . perhaps never to return. Her only hope is an American woman who buys one of her decorative vine baskets for a staggering sum and says she will return in three weeks for more. Mehrigul must brave terrible storms, torn-up hands from working the fields, and her father's scorn to get the baskets done. The stakes are high, and time is passing.

A powerful intergenerational story of a strong, creative young artist in a cruelly oppressive society.

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About the Author-
  • Josanne LaValley traveled across the Taklamakan Desert to the Hotan region of China, where she spent time among the Uyghur. The recipient of an MFA in writing children's books from Vermont College, Ms. LaValley lives in New York City. The Vine Basket is her first novel.

Reviews-
  • AudioFile Magazine This bittersweet story is set in remote East Turkestan--now China. The Uyghur people are much like the Tibetans as their homeland and culture have been taken over by the Han Chinese. Narrator Zeynep Bilik presents 14-year-old Mehrigul, her little sister, and her grandfather with warmth, sweetness, and dignity. Mehrigul has a difficult, almost hopeless life until an American woman spots a beautiful basket she's made. Bilik skillfully slips from beautiful accented English to Mandarin to Uyghur (including translation), which adds authenticity to the story. Mehrigul's drunken, gambling father and depressed mother are aptly rendered in tones of anger and frustration. A moving author's note in La Valley's own voice recounts how she was inspired to write about the family after a personal encounter. Listeners of all ages will learn from Mehrigul's simple tale. S.G.B. (c) AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine
  • Publisher's Weekly

    March 11, 2013
    In this debut novel, La Valley introduces Mehrigul, a 14-year-old Uyghur girl growing up in western China, who struggles with poverty, an alcoholic father and depressed mother, and government policies that could force her to be shipped off to work in a factory. Mehrigul’s grandfather has shown her how to create cornucopia-style baskets from grapevines, a departure from the traditional handicrafts of her region, and one of them catches the attention of an American buyer, who pays extraordinarily well and orders more baskets on a tight (and probably impossible) deadline. The use of the grapevines as a metaphor for Uyghur resilience is a bit heavy-handed, but the blossoming of Mehrigul’s artistic abilities and confidence are inspiring. Her loneliness and hopelessness in the face of many obstacles are also resonant, as is her longing to return to school, despite the pressure and need to help her family financially. For many readers, this book may be their first introduction to the Uyghur people, and La Valley strongly evokes the culture and struggles of an ethnic group whose future is less than certain. Ages 9–12. Agent: Marietta Zacker, Nancy Gallt Literary Agency.

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The Vine Basket
The Vine Basket
Josanne La Valley
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